Park Avenue Armory with stadium bleacher seating and one of the largest stages I have seen. Smack- dab in the middle of the drill hall. The company of 9 dancers – 5 females, 4 males. “Astral Converted” (which premiered in 1991), the revival was choreographed by 2 former Trisha Brown dancers. Bright lights on 8 vertical grid towers lit the dancers from all directions head to toe. Knowing very little about the dance company or John Cage’s music, I didn’t know what to expect. The harsh set of black with the white lights and the shrill horns/wind instruments with elongated single notes and chords had me relating to the piece as if it was something from the old TV show “Lost in Space”. That was my interpretation of the piece. The silver unitard clad bodies moved in harmony back and forth, colliding, then recoiling like some space particles. Lifting and falling in tandem as the horns and wind instruments rose and fell.
At one point 2 of the 4 dancers occupying the stage wielded push brooms across the floor as the other 2 did what ever it was they were doing off to the side. I was intrigued by the props and lost sight of the other dancers.
The dancers move in and out of the lights but unlike other stages, there was no curtain so exiting stage left was not an option. They were always there, waiting their turn in the darkness. 55 minutes of extended bodies stretching outward and furling down to the ground. Holding positions, exerting muscles and all the while, making it look so effortless, serene /stormy, simple and yet complex and then the lights went out and the performance ended abruptly. As if the plug was pulled on the heavens. There was no indication that the end was near. How startling and unexpected.
It was interesting to watch and I wondered how the lights didn’t blind them. Afterward there was a deconstruction of the dance, and the audience found out that at times, the dancers had to rely purely on muscle memory because the lights did hinder their sight…
Trisha Brown was in attendance and I was hoping that she would have sat with the panel for the post discussion.
Definitely worth seeing. PS. I am one of the luckiest women because my husband loves dance and I’m not trying to drag him to performances, he seeks them out. (He worked in theater and toured with several dance companies as lighting designer). He loves photographing the movement of the slender bodies capturing the ethereal feelings. Jene Youtt.